You’ll be Sorry! How World War II changed women’s lives by Ann Howard – Book Review

This is an updated reprint of two earlier volumes by Anne Howard. It comprises over 250 interviews of the women who saw service in World War II – from their motivation to enlist as soon as this was permitted (on 15 October 1941), their experiences on recruit courses, their employment during the conflict, how they were regarded by their male counterparts and their experiences in the post-war years.
Despite the title, (the comment of outsiders), none of the interviewees “were sorry”! Their motivation for enlisting ranged from wanting to contribute to the war effort as their fathers, husbands, and brothers had or were doing, the thrill of adventure, leaving their home and ‘domestic duties’, to using their current civilian skills as well as gaining new skills. The women’s impact upon the war effort was effectively doubled as many servicemen in administrative roles could be transferred to combat roles.
The roles filled by the women were significant and varied − from clerks, to Morse code and cryptographers who were more efficient than the men they replaced, store personnel, transport drivers and despatch riders, and to manning coastal artillery installations to name a few. Some were closely involved and affected by the Cowra breakout in August 1944. Other interviewees, 40 years later, were still not prepared to discuss the nature of their classified work. General Douglas MacArthur had 60 women in his Brisbane-based headquarters. He valued their input so highly as to request the Australian Government (unsuccessfully) that they be permitted to move with his headquarters to the South-West Pacific.
There are many interesting aspects of life in war-time Australia such as living conditions and finding accommodation that are revealed by the interviews – providing a very good historic record for ‘baby boomers’ and following generations. Post-war Australia was not kind to those who had served. They were expected to return to their homes and provide children to populate. Just like the returning servicemen, they also missed the camaraderie of their colleagues in arms.
You’ll be Sorry! is a work that will interest both readers with a military background and the general public as well. It is a very easy read, with some fascinating and humorous anecdotes and high quality photographs. Whilst there is no index, the comprehensive table of contents enables easy navigation through the text. A complete list of interviewees, by service, is included.

Reviewer: Neville Taylor, July 2016 For RUSIV

Big Sky Publishing, 2016 , Paperback RRP: $29.99
Big Sky Publishing, 2016 , Paperback RRP: $29.99

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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